George Crumb: Voices from the Morning of the Earth; Complete Crumb Edition, Vol 17

review crumb x1 cong

More Crumb (it’s about the third this year — we’ve quite become fans) and the opening piece on this, the title work, has the strapline American Songbook VI, which is an early warning for avant-garde takes on popular tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan (Never mind “Judas” when he went electric!).
It’s a hypnotic work, as it scrolls through various classics from the American songbook and presents them in an avant-garde setting.
It opens with My Lord What A Beautiful Morning!, the hymn/negro spiritual, accompanied by (as throughout the piece) amplified piano and various percussion.
The piece takes in songs ranging from Dry Bones (“Toe bone connected to the foot bone / Foot bone connected to the heel bone” etc), to Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind and that trad jazz classic When The Saints, as well as Pete Seeger’s Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
In each case Crumb takes the song and breaks it down to its basic element and sets it against discordant, broken music that comes and goes. The vocals — Crumb’s soprano daughter Ann is one of two singers — vary, from a solo rendition of Dylan by baritone Randall Scarlata to a more harmonic arrangement of Dry Bones. The music might be odd and jarring but it works well against the familiar standards being sung. It’s a bit like seeing an old friend disappear in a crowd.
The title track is the bulk of the CD, at nearly 50 minutes, and it’s such an engrossing piece that the final two tracks just slip by for the first few plays, but they are An Idyll For The Misbegotten and The Sleeper, based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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